When I signed up for the April Fool’s Half Marathon, it was back in September – at the Super Earlybird rate, and I saved extra with a promo code and a BC Athletics membership. As such, the race only cost me $22! What a steal! The joke was on me, however, when in the midst of planning for our trip to Japan, and my participation in the Kumagaya Sakura Marathon – I forgot I had signed up!
Thankfully, Debra reminded me – and also helped coordinate transportation for me (thanks, Humphrey!) – so I was ready to run when we arrived on the Sunshine Coast for the April Fool’s Half Marathon.
The first April Fool’s joke arrived early – over Messenger – when Humphrey announced that he was picking me up for the ferry at 5am. 5am?! In the morning??
Wait? A ferry?
Getting to the Race
The Sunshine Coast is not, as some have suggested, an island – it’s a peninsula attached to Mainland BC. However, there is no road access, due to a bunch of mountains blocking the way. As such, the only way to get there is across the ocean – by ferry!
Our driver for the day was Humphrey, a remarkable local runner, who gladly offered to pick me up and chauffeur us over to Horseshoe Bay. As it turned out, we could catch a later ferry, so the pickup time was bumped to 6:30am. Much more civilized. We were also joined by Euan, Director of VanRace, which I ran the last two years (note: VanRace is on hiatus in 2017). Upon reaching the ferry terminal, we boarded on foot – with a whole bunch of other runners.
It was cool and windy, but incredibly clear and sunny. What a way to travel to a half marathon!
Arriving at Langdale Terminal, we were greeting with the Ferry Fairy…
And then loaded onto school buses, which shuttled us several kilometres to the race start at Gibsons Community Centre.
For those who didn’t make it to early bib pickup (Debra and I swung by on Thursday), volunteers were on hand to pass out race packets, and to register last minute entrants. I managed to snag a selfie with the BMO Bear (BMO Bank of Montreal is the title sponsor of the race):
It was great to have a warm, dry place to prep before the race! And then head outside to get ready for the start!
The views at the start line were pretty similar to what we encountered for most of the race – rural streets, lots of trees, and brilliant blue skies!
The race started promptly at 9:17am (as scheduled) – part of the April Fool’s charm, and honouring the very first April Fool’s Half Marathon, when the Race Director slept in and was late for the start. They waited until 9:17am before starting the race anyway…and the Director arrived a few minutes later. It’s been a tradition ever since!
I’d never run the April Fool’s Half Marathon before, and I had been warned. By folks who’d run before, by the race website…I had been warned that there would be hills. And hills there were.
In fact, the starting line faces a hill. Not a huge one, to be fair, but the race starts out by going uphill! A few turns, and the mostly downhill towards the neighbourhoods around Gibsons. Uphill again, until we reached the highway.
A fair chunk of the April Fool’s Half Marathon is along the side of Highway 101 – although at this point we only ran about 2km before cutting onto another, more rural road – gradually downhill again, with a few little slopes, through the community of Roberts Creek.
I should add that there was lots of support along the way – locals cheering, volunteers both directing traffic and staffing the aid stations. It was all very community-oriented and positive.
Once we got back on the highway, though, there was a lot more traffic. It was busy. The only time I felt anxious, however, was when a huge transport truck blew past…a little too close for comfort. But what can you do? And now the hill was a reality…up, up, up for 4 kilometres!
My stomach started to hurt – not intensely, but enough to know that I would need to get to a washroom very soon.
What a relief to finally be heading downhill for the final stretch! Not enough to propel me to a strong finish time, but better than nothing! There was a significant headwind during the final kilometre…and that was a struggle for me.
Finally, we reached Davis Bay – a quick left turn into the finishing chute – and we were done!
I grabbed my bag from bag check (they saw me coming, and had it ready) – and made a beeline for the public toilets. I was in such a rush that once in the stall I had a moment of panic, thinking I might have run into the women’s washroom. (I hadn’t.)
Then I could relax and take a few photos.
To prove how windy it was. And how spectacular the scenery was!
Circling back to the finish line, I reconnected with the speedier ones, and grabbed some food. What a selection!
- 3 kinds of soup (vegan tomato/vegetable; vegetarian curry lentil; vegetarian potato leek) – a dream!
- Bagels – with cream cheese, jam OR cream cheese AND jam
At this point, our group was debating what to do…rush back to catch the next ferry at 12;30pm, or wait until the ferry after that at 2:45pm. As luck would have it, the shuttle bus arrived at that moment, so we piled on…
We made it to the ferry on time, cruised back to the mainland, and got home in plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the sunny afternoon!
Chip Time: 1:51:06
Average Pace: 5:16 min/km
Overall Place: 121/411
Place in age category: 14/31
Quick Recap – April Fool’s Half Marathon
Social Media: The social media team did a great job with engagement on both Twitter and Facebook. I would love for them to have had an Instagram account for me to tag as well, but that was hardly an issue. The race website is great – jam-packed with information – providing all the information we needed!
Packet pickup: Available on Thursday night at Denman Street Running Room, or on Saturday in Gibsons. If neither option works, there is morning-of pickup available.
T-Shirt/Swag: Fun race t-shirts are available, but you have to purchase them separately. This is great, actually, because it keeps the race price low, and you can choose whether or not you want another race shirt. Given the price of the race, the medal is fantastic – this one celebrating the race’s 40th anniversary!
Course: Point-to-point from Gibsons – through Roberts Creek and along the highway north to Davis Bay near Sechelt. If you’re looking for a fast, flat course…this ain’t it! The scenery is OK – mostly residential countryside – but it’s the spirit of the spectators and volunteers that makes all the difference. I wonder what it would be like running it in the rain. I should note that there is also a relay option for the half marathon – you can read more about the relay experience on Zahida’s blog.
Post-Race: I spent less time that I normally would post-race because I dashed to the washroom, and soon thereafter jumped on a bus back to the ferry. However, there was a wonderful selection of food – bagels, yogurt, drinks and three kinds of vegetarian soup!
Would I Run It Again? YES! It’s a delightfully fun race, great value for money – and wonderful local community spirit. Lots of familiar faces from the Vancouver running scene, which is fun.